Luciano Spalletti played down talk of revenge as he warned AS Roma to keep cool heads on their return to Old Trafford, the scene of their heaviest loss in Europe.
Luciano Spalletti played down talk of revenge as he warned his AS Roma players to keep cool heads on their return to Old Trafford, the scene of their heaviest defeat in Europe.
Roma's visit to Manchester United FC for the sides' Group F encounter offers an early opportunity to exorcise the ghosts of last April's 7-1 UEFA Champions League quarter-final humbling. Yet while Spalletti spoke of a determination to "show that it was just a blip in our development and draw a line under it", he also said it was vital not to get carried away by a desire to make amends.
'Remember what we suffered'
"If we talk about a vendetta, this could mean a lack of calm and balance in our play and at this level, it is not something we can do. We have to remember what we suffered last time, where we went wrong and go out in the kind of condition that will enable us to play against a team as strong as Manchester United."
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson acknowledged that the reunion represented "a big occasion" for Roma and was quick to rule out a repeat performance from his team. "It was a one-off, it won't happen again – European football is just not that way nowadays. It was an exceptional performance on the night." A reprise seems particularly far-fetched given United's present struggle for goals, Sir Alex himself remarking in his programme notes how Roma's return was a "reminder of the elusive form that we are still searching for". The English champions may sit second in the Premier League but only bottom club Derby County FC have scored fewer than their seven goals in eight outings.
Sir Alex, who will likely persist with Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tévez in attack, said he was confident his forwards would come good. "We are using Wayne as the more advanced player and Carlos dropping in. They've got a bit of understanding," he said, adding: "They're good players and the ability they've got will soon gel." Yet given United's present dependence on their defence – Saturday's victory at Birmingham City FC was their sixth 1-0 in eight games – it will concern the United manager that two of his back four, Nemanja Vidić and Wes Brown, are "doubts" having missed training on the eve of the match because of knocks. The loss of the in-form Vidić would be a notable setback, particularly with goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar already sidelined by a damaged toe, opening the door for a first European start for Tomasz Kuszczak.
Roma landed in Manchester without Christian Panucci, who has a back problem, and with Spalletti expected to recall the fit-again Alberto Aquilani in midfield in place of David Pizarro. Like United, Roma collected three points on Matchday 1 but they have not won in three outings since and endured a first loss of the campaign on Saturday, 4-1 at home to FC Internazionale Milano. "We have to put these results behind us and react," said Spalletti. It is their reaction to another result that holds the real fascination.